Hepatitis C: What Happens
About 25% of people who get hepatitis C defeat the virus after a short-term infection. The rest will carry the virus in their body for the long term. Chronic hepatitis C can cause very serious complications, including liver failure and liver cancer. There are effective treatments for the virus, though.
Hepatitis A: Who Is At Risk
A prime risk factor for hepatitis A is traveling to or living in a country with high infection rates. You can check the CDC’s travel advisories to learn about recent outbreaks. Eating raw foods or drinking tap water can raise your risk while traveling. Children who attend daycare centers also have a higher risk of getting hepatitis A.
Can You Prevent Hepatitis
There are many ways to prevent hepatitis, from getting a vaccine to washing your hands well. But it all depends on what type you have. Here are some tips for preventing the three major kinds of this liver disease — hepatitis A, B, and C — and explanations of how one spreads in a different way.
How to prevent hepatitis A: You can get hepatitis A if you eat food or drink water that has the hepatitis A virus in it. You could also get infected if you’re in close physical contact with someone who has the disease or have sex with someone who has it.
The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get a vaccine. Kids should get a shot around their first birthday.
As an adult, you should get the shot if you:
- Travel to Africa, Asia , the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean
- Use recreational drugs
- Work in a day-care center, nursing home, or you’re a health care professional
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Have long-term liver disease
- Take blood products to treat hemophilia or other conditions
If you’re planning a trip to a place where there are outbreaks of hepatitis A, keep in mind that the vaccine only starts to work 2 to 4 weeks after you get it. And if you want long-term protection, you’ll need a follow-up shot 6 to 12 months later.
If you haven’t had a hepatitis B shot as an adult, it’s important to get it if you:
- Live with someone who has hepatitis B
- Travel to a country with outbreaks of hepatitis B
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How Hbv Is Spread
It is possible for the hepatitis B virus to be spread through the bodily fluids of an infected person, which is to say that the virus can be transmitted through the blood, sweat, tears, saliva, semen, vaginal secretions, menstrual blood, and breast milk of an infected person. That said, having hepatitis B does not necessarily mean that you are infectious only some people with HBV are actually contagious.
Opportunities for exposure can include sharing a syringe or getting tattoos or body piercings with infected tools. But it also means that it is possible to be exposed during childbirth as well as sexual contact and intercourse. In fact, nearly two-thirds of acute cases of hepatitis B in the United States are caused by sexual exposure.
Though HBV can be spread through blood, there is generally very little risk of contracting the virus through blood transfusions as most countries began screening for it by 1975.
Hepatitis C: Who Is At Risk
People who have injected illegal drugs at any time, even one time, many years ago, could be walking around with chronic hepatitis C. Because there are often no symptoms, many former drug users may not realize they have the infection. People who received a blood transfusion before 1992 also have a higher risk. Before that year, donated blood was not screened for the hepatitis C virus.
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Can You Be A Blood Or Organ Donor
People with hepatitis C cant currently donate blood. The American Red Cross eligibility guidelines prohibit people who have ever tested positive for hepatitis C from donating blood, even if the infection never caused symptoms.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services , information on organ donation, those with underlying medical conditions shouldnt rule themselves out as organ donors. This reflects new guidelines for organ donation announced by the HHS.
People with HCV are now able to be organ donors. This is because advances in testing and medical technology can help the transplant team determine which organs or tissues can be safely used for transplantation.
Cost Of Hepatitis C Medicines
The newer direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C can be costly. Most government and private health insurance prescription drug plans provide some coverage for these medicines. Talk with your doctor about your health insurance coverage for hepatitis C medicines.
Drug companies, nonprofit organizations, and some states offer programs that can help pay for hepatitis C medicines. If you need help paying for medicines, talk with your doctor. Learn more about financial help for hepatitis C medicines.
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How Do Doctors Treat Hepatitis C
Doctors treat hepatitis C with antiviral medicines that attack the virus and can cure the disease in most cases.
Several newer medicines, called direct-acting antiviral medicines, have been approved to treat hepatitis C since 2013. Studies show that these medicines can cure chronic hepatitis C in most people with this disease. These medicines can also cure acute hepatitis C. In some cases, doctors recommend waiting to see if an acute infection becomes chronic before starting treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of these newer, direct-acting antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C:
You may need to take medicines for 8 to 24 weeks to cure hepatitis C. Your doctor will prescribe medicines and recommend a length of treatment based on
- which hepatitis C genotype you have
- how much liver damage you have
- whether you have been treated for hepatitis C in the past
Your doctor may order blood tests during and after your treatment. Blood tests can show whether the treatment is working. Hepatitis C medicines cure the infection in most people who complete treatment.
Hepatitis C medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Check with your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
Will It Affect My Partner/s
If you have hepatitis A: Your partner/s should be immunised for prevention. You should avoid anal sex until you are better.
If you have hepatitis B: Free immunisation is available for household and sexual contacts of people known to carry hepatitis B. If your partner is not immunised, you should always use a condom. Protection is offered to babies on the immunisation schedule and to children under 16 years.
If you have hepatitis C: Anyone youve had sex with, or shared a needle with can have a blood test to check for hepatitis C antibodies.
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.
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What Causes Hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus causes hepatitis C. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contact with an infected persons blood. Contact can occur by
- sharing drug needles or other drug materials with an infected person
- getting an accidental stick with a needle that was used on an infected person
- being tattooed or pierced with tools or inks that were not kept sterilefree from all viruses and other microorganismsand were used on an infected person before they were used on you
- having contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- using an infected persons razor, toothbrush, or nail clippers
- being born to a mother with hepatitis C
- having unprotected sex with an infected person
You cant get hepatitis C from
- being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person
- drinking water or eating food
- hugging an infected person
- shaking hands or holding hands with an infected person
- sharing spoons, forks, and other eating utensils
- sitting next to an infected person
A baby cant get hepatitis C from breast milk.18
If I Have Hepatitis How Can I Avoid Giving It To Someone Else
If you have hepatitis B and C, you need to find ways to keep others from making contact with your blood. Follow these tips:
- Cover your cuts or blisters.
- Carefully throw away used bandages, tissues, tampons, and sanitary napkins.
- Don’t share your razor, nail clippers, or toothbrush.
- If your blood gets on objects, clean them with household bleach and water.
- Don’t breastfeed if your nipples are cracked or bleeding.
- Don’t donate blood, organs, or sperm.
- If you inject drugs, don’t share needles or other equipment.
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What Is The Treatment For Hepatitis
Each type of hepatitis is treated differently.
Hepatitis A often goes away on its own and home treatment is all that is needed to help the liver recover, such as:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding certain medicines that can be harmful to the liver
Hepatitis B often goes away on its own in about 6 months, and can also be treated at home with the above remedies. Other treatments for hepatitis B include:
- Antiviral medications
- Liver transplant in severe cases
Treatment for hepatitis C is effective on certain forms of the hepatitis C virus. The choice of medications depends on the type of hepatitis C you have, whether you have been treated for the illness before, how much liver damage has occurred, any other underlying medical issues, and other medicines you take. Treatment for hepatitis C usually involves 8 to 12 weeks of oral antiviral medications, such as:
How Is Hepatitis A Spread
The hepatitis A virus is usually spread by putting something in your mouth that is contaminated with the virus. The virus is found in the stool of people with hepatitis A and is spread when someone’s stool accidentally contaminates food or water. This can happen when an infected person does not adequately wash their hands after using the bathroom then touches other things such as food. When other people eat that food, they can get infected with hepatitis A. Usually the transmission is between people in very close personal contact.
Foods themselves can be contaminated with hepatitis A virus, such as raw oysters harvested from sewage-contaminated water. When people eat food contaminated with hepatitis A virus, they can get infected with the virus.
Hepatitis A is usually spread through:
- household contact with an infected person
- sexual contact with an infected person
- eating or drinking contaminated food or water
- sharing eating utensils that are contaminated
- touching contaminated surfaces and then placing your hands near or in the mouth
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Who Should Get The Hepatitis A Vaccine
The NZ Immunisation Advisory Centre recommends the following people get a vaccine:
- All children aged one
- Travellers to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Family and caregivers of children adopted from countries where hepatitis A is common
- Men who have sex with men
- Users of recreational drugs
- People with chronic liver diseases including those with hepatitis B or C
- People with blood clotting disorders
- Any person wishing to obtain immune protection.
How Can I Prevent Spreading Hepatitis C To Others
If you have hepatitis C, follow the steps above to avoid spreading the infection. Tell your sex partner you have hepatitis C, and talk with your doctor about safe sex practices. In addition, you can protect others from infection by telling your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers that you have hepatitis C. Dont donate blood or blood products, semen, organs, or tissue.
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Enteric Routes: Transmission Of Hepatitis A And Hepatitis E
The Hepatitis A and hepatitis E viruses are both transmitted by enteric, that is digestive or by fecal, routes. This is also known as the fecal-oral route. To be exposed to these viruses, you must ingest fecal matter that is infected with the virus. While there are several ways in which this fecal-oral route can be established, poor hygiene and poor sanitary conditions in some countries lead to higher rates of infection of these viruses.
As a result, some areas of the world, like India, Bangladesh, and Central and South America, are particularly prone to the hepatitis E virus. About one-third of people in the United States have been exposed to the hepatitis A virus.
It is believed that the hepatitis F virus may also be spread by enteric routes.
Can Hepatitis A Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to protect yourself against hepatitis A is to get the vaccine. The hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all children older than age 1. It begins to protect you only 4 weeks after you are vaccinated. A 6- to 12-month booster is required for long-term protection. Ask your doctor if the vaccination is right for you.
You should also wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after cooking, after using the bathroom, and after changing diapers.
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating and avoid raw or undercooked meat and fish.
You are at higher risk for hepatitis A if you:
- Live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis A
- Travel to countries where hepatitis A is common
- Are a man who has sex with other men
- Use illegal drugs
- Have a clotting-factor disorder
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How Long Before I Have Symptoms
Many people have mild symptoms or no symptoms, which is why hepatitis is sometimes called a âsilentâ disease.
Hepatitis A. The symptoms usually show up 2 to 6 weeks after the virus enters your body. They usually last for less than 2 months, though sometimes you can be sick for as long as 6 months.
Some warning signs that you may have hepatitis A are:
Hepatitis B. The symptoms are the same as hepatitis A, and you usually get them 3 months after you’re infected. They could show up, though, anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months later.
Sometimes the symptoms are mild and last just a few weeks. For some people, the hep B virus stays in the body and leads to long-term liver problems.
Hepatitis C. The early symptoms are the same as hepatitis A and B, and they usually happen 6 to 7 weeks after the virus gets in your body. But you could notice them anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months later.
For about 25% of people who get hep C, the virus goes away on its own without treatment. In other cases, it sticks around for years. When that happens, your liver might get damaged.
Remember, it’s possible to spread all the types of hepatitis even if you don’t show any signs of being sick.
How Common Is Hepatitis C In The United States
In the United States, hepatitis C is the most common chronic viral infection found in blood and spread through contact with blood.14
Researchers estimate that about 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C.13 Many people who have hepatitis C dont have symptoms and dont know they have this infection.
New screening efforts and more effective hepatitis C treatments are helping doctors identify and cure more people with the disease. With more screening and treatment, hepatitis C may become less common in the future. Researchers estimate that hepatitis C could be a rare disease in the United States by 2036.17
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What Do Doctors Do
A doctor who thinks someone may have hepatitis may ask questions like these:
- Has the person been around anyone who works in health care or childcare?
- Did the person stick himself or herself with a dirty needle or get a tattoo with a dirty needle?
- Did the person have contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has hepatitis?
- Did the person have a blood transfusion as a baby?
- Have any of the person’s family members had hepatitis?
- Could the person have eaten food that was contaminated with hepatitis A?
The doctor can order a blood test to see if someone has hepatitis and which type, then help the person get the right care.
Treatment: Chronic Hepatitis C
The latest drug to be approved by the FDA is glecaprevir and pibrentasvir . This medication offers a shorter treatment cycle of 8 weeks for adult patients with all types of HCV who donât have cirrhosis and who have not been previously treated. The length of treatment is longer for those who are in a different disease stage. The prescribed dosage for this medicine is 3 tablets daily.
There are several other combination drugs available, as well as some single drugs that may be used in combination. Your doctor will choose the right one for you depending on the type of hepatitis C you have, how well your liver is functioning and any other medical problems you may have. Also be sure to discuss your insurance coverage since these medications are expensive.
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